Happy Mother’s Day. In honor of all the Cleveland moms out there, this week’s blog covers some of the common employment laws that protect working moms and pregnant employees in Ohio workplaces.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act is the first law to consider. The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to twelve weeks of protected leave during a twelve-month period under a variety of health-related circumstances. Three are especially relevant here. First, working mothers can take FMLA leave due to the “serious health condition” of a child. Second, working mothers can take FMLA leave due to their own “serious health condition.” Third, employees may take FMLA leave due to “the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter.” This latter type of FMLA leave can be taken either before the birth or up to twelve months after. While the FMLA will protect many working mothers, it does not apply to all workplaces or all employees. So we have to consider other employment laws.
Another potential source of protection for working mothers is the ban on pregnancy discrimination in both Ohio and federal law. As a general rule, employers must treat pregnant employees the same as non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability to work. Essentially, this means it is illegal to fire, demote, cut the pay or hours of, or others take negative action against, a female employee based on stereotypical assumptions about pregnant employees and working mothers. It also means that if a pregnant employee in Ohio needs a leave of absence, a lifting restriction, or reduced hours due to pregnancy, the employer must grant the employee’s request if the employer has (or would) grant a similar request from a non-pregnant employee.
Mothers who are dealing with the stress of pregnancy-related health complications should not also have to worry about whether their health issues will cost them their jobs. Thankfully, the Ohio and federal disability discrimination laws may offer protection in these situations. While pregnancy is not always considered a protected “disability,” it can be where the mother has a high-risk pregnancy or experiences pregnancy-related complications. Thus, pregnant employee are sometimes protected by the disability discrimination laws as well.
We have represented working mothers and pregnant employees in Lorain County, Summit County, Cleveland, and all across Northeast Ohio. The laws discussed above are not the only ones that may offer protection to a working mother, just the most common. If you fear that your job is at risk because you are a new or expecting mother, the time to seek help from an experienced employment law attorney is now—not only for your sake, but for your family’s sake as well.